And just when you thought we’d achieved maximum chaos at the World Cup on Wednesday, we had ups and downs on Thursday. All four teams in Group E — Costa Rica, Germany, Japan and Spain — were eliminated at some point in the round of 16 or outright.
Be sure to check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from Qatar. Here’s what you might have missed on Thursday’s World Cup and what’s next on Friday.
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Group E chaos: Japan, Spain; Germany faces a reboot
At halftime of both games late on Thursday, one of the World Cup’s more intriguing groups seemed to fall into line as predicted: previous winners Spain and Germany would advance, while Japan and Costa Rica would go home.
By the time the final whistles blew, Japan topped Group E after beating Spain, with Germany (yes, the team with four World Cup trophies) joined by Costa Rica on the outside.
Spain were initially in control against Japan after Alvaro Morata’s opening goal before Germany cruised past Costa Rica thanks to Serge Gnabry’s 10th-minute score. But as we always expect in these tournaments, tables were turned, scripts were flipped and chaos ensued.
Both Costa Rica and Japan came out of their locker rooms on fire after halftime, each team scoring two goals in their respective matches and suddenly it was up for grabs. For a brief period of two minutes, 55 seconds, even Costa Rica — which lost 7-0 to Spain but then bounced back to beat Japan — was in the driver’s seat to qualify.
When the dust settled, it was Japan — aided by a controversial VAR decision — who were group winners after holding off Spain 2-1. Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2 but it was not enough to overcome Spain’s superior goal difference.
What about the Japan target?
Of particular note is Japan’s second and ultimately decisive goal. In the 51st minute, Ao Tanaka buried the ball into the net after Kaoru Mitoma was deflected off the goal-line. Initially ruled over the line when the assistant’s flag was raised, VAR determined that the ball had not crossed completely and remained in play.
can you see it Not convinced? Check out the details on the VAR decision here, or check out how ESPN’s rules expert extraordinaire Dale Johnson finally sealed Germany’s World Cup fate by breaking the goal.
ESPN FC’s Dale Johnson explains why VAR decided to disallow Japan’s 2nd goal against Spain.
End of an era for Germany?
Technically Germany did what it wanted. They beat Costa Rica despite falling behind briefly Los Ticos Thanks to a second-half brace from Kai Havertz and a late strike from Niklas Fulkrug. But that controversial goal from Japan proved costly, with Spain’s goal being the difference in last week’s big win over Costa Rica.
It’s a bittersweet way to exit the World Cup stage, especially for a traditional powerhouse like Germany. After winning the 2014 World Cup, it was two straight group stage exits for the four-time winners.
The result is likely to lead to a major overhaul in German soccer, with coach Hansi Flick’s position as coach now vulnerable. Even long-serving players such as Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer, Antonio Rudiger, Mario Gotze and Ilkay Gundogan may have reached the end of the line on the international stage.
ESPN FC’s Archie Rind-Tutt labeled Germany’s World Cup exit a defeat.
Today’s top reads
Ziyech, En-Nesyri help fire Morocco Round of 16
Morocco, who entered the World Cup Round of 16 as Group F winners, were led by an unfortunate error that led to the opening goal.
Croatia narrowly retained the trophy from Belgium’s golden generation
Croatia, the World Cup runners-up in 2018, stay alive and send a star-studded but disappointing Belgium team home.
World Cup’s missing men: What are Salah, Hollande, Benzema doing?
Due to eligibility or injury, some of the sport’s biggest names are still busy (or resting).
Your Best Bets (Odds by Caesars Sportsbook)
If you’re looking to bet on the World Cup, ESPN contributors Paul Carr, Dan Thomas and Dalen Cuff are here to give you top tips on odds, picks and predictions. We have for Friday’s matches.
Group G: Cameroon (+750) vs Brazil (-275), draw (+375)
Daylen Cuff: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I am looking to cash in on this for the third time. Brazil will dominate the ball and this game. take it A Selecao To win (+114) to nil.
Paul Carr: Through two group games, Brazil allowed just 11 shots and 0.5 expected goals, both among the three best defenses in the tournament. I have lineup concerns here as well, even given Brazil’s lack of depth. I would very much like to make the win zero. I want to see who starts first.
Daniel Thomas: Brazil have been the best team of the tournament so far. Even though they have rested key players, they are still full of quality. I’m going for a 3-0 Brazil win.
Group G: Serbia (+150) vs Switzerland (+180), draw (+230)
List: The Swiss need a draw to advance. They are a solid defensive group and Yann Sommer is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Serbia are all over the place in this tournament and they need all three points to advance. The Swiss manage this game well and get the draw they need (+225).
Car: Assuming Cameroon don’t beat Brazil, Switzerland only need a draw to progress, and they’re an experienced side that will simply do what’s required. They went unbeaten in qualifying, outscoring their opponents 15–2, and drew 1–1 and 0–0 with Italy. Serbia’s attack isn’t quite clicking (2.1 expected goals through two games) and Switzerland will continue that trend in a low-scoring game. Give me under 2.5 goals at -130.
Thomas: Take the under on goals. It won’t be fun to watch.
Group H: Ghana (+390) vs Uruguay (-140), draw (+300)
List: Ghana’s matches have been largely thanks to their ability to put the ball in the net (5 goals scored) but their propensity to score on them (5 goals conceded). While the Black Stars can advance with just a draw (assuming South Korea don’t beat Portugal), Uruguay must win to have any chance. Uruguay were unlucky, hitting the bar three times in two games. I think they will capitalize on the pressing opportunities from kickoff. Black Stars can also get on board. That’s why I like 2.5 goals at -105.
Car: I’m on a similar page, in that Uruguay should already have a goal or two, given their 1.9 expected goals. In addition, both games in Ghana have plenty of chances, with each team getting at least 1.0 expected goals in each match. I take both teams to score -110.
Thomas: I like it here in Ghana. He is good value at +390. Uruguay has not made an impact so far.
Group H: South Korea (+375) vs Portugal (-150), draw (+300)
List: South Korea should win and create a lot of chances against Ghana. Portugal’s already qualified squad is interesting. I’m not sure I’m going to play this game and definitely wait to see the starting 11. If this is the group that primarily leads to Portugal winning this group, I like both teams to score (-115).
Car: After what happened to France’s sub-optimal lineup on Wednesday, I won’t touch this game until I see Portugal’s starters.
Thomas: I like both teams to score and I think it will be a thoroughly entertaining affair.
News and Notes
United States midfielder Christian Pulisic said Thursday he will “do everything in my power” to play in Saturday’s World Cup round-of-16 match against the Netherlands. According to a US Soccer Federation spokesperson, Pulisic’s official condition remains day-to-day with a pelvic contusion.
Brazil football legend Pele is suffering from bronchopneumonia after new tests at a São Paulo hospital on Thursday, sources told ESPN Brasil. The three-time World Cup winner was hospitalized Tuesday to control medication in his fight against a colon tumor, his daughter Kelly Nascimento said. She said there was “no urgency” about her 82-year-old father’s health.
Mexico’s national teams director Jaime Ordiales said he felt “professional embarrassment” for the national team’s early exit from the group stage of the 2022 World Cup and vowed to rebuild for the next World Cup cycle. It was Mexico’s worst World Cup performance in 40 years and L Tri They have advanced past the first round in seven consecutive World Cups.
Merritt Paulson announced his intention to sell NWSL club Portland Thorns amid ongoing pressure over allegations of sexual harassment and coercion against former Thorns manager Paul Riley, who was fired for cause in 2015. That pressure — from fans and sponsors — increased after the release of the Yates Report, which detailed systemic sexual and emotional abuse across the league. Paulson, who also owns the Portland Timbers, has no intention of selling the MLS club.
What else caught our eye
Fans in Morocco are celebrating in full force after finishing Group F unbeaten by setting up a thrilling round of 16 match with neighbors Spain.
Moroccan fans took to the streets to celebrate their country’s victory over Canada in the World Cup, Tom Hamilton reports from downtown Doha.
It was a rematch of the 2018 World Cup group stage thriller between La Roja and Atlas Lions, which ended in a 2-2 draw. Who will get the bragging rights this time?
Gab Marcotti of ESPN FC defends Morocco after Spain finished 2nd in their group and will face them in the round of 16.
Matches on tap Friday
Group H: South Korea vs. Portugal (Education City Stadium, 10 a.m. ET)
All Portugal need to do is stay healthy and avoid humiliation to advance, but South Korea could use a spark from Son Heung-min to have a chance of going through. Will we see Cristiano Ronaldo or rest?
Group H: Ghana vs. Uruguay (Al Janoub Stadium, 10 a.m. ET)
This seismic grudge match — remember Luis Suarez’s handball as Uruguay knocked the Black Stars out of the 2010 World Cup — has a lot on the line for both to advance. With a Ghana win or draw (if South Korea loses), Uruguay must win (and South Korea lose) to have a chance to progress. Skip some meetings to tune in.
Group G: Serbia vs. Switzerland (Stadium 974, 2 p.m. ET)
There is a lot of animosity here after their tumultuous meeting at the 2018 World Cup, but a win for either side would secure a place in the round of 16.
Group G: Cameroon vs. Brazil (Lusail Iconic Stadium, 2 p.m. ET)
Brazil losing is unlikely, but considering the mess in both Groups C and E this week, literally anything is possible. A win for Cameroon, with some help from Serbia/Switzerland, will put them through to the round of 16.